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Web Presence Management: What You Don’t Know That You Don’t Know About Your Website

Do you know who owns the copyright to your website or your domain name? Has someone copied your site? You’ll be surprised at the answers.

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BSB Contributing Editor Mark Claypool has more than 30 years of experience in the fields of workforce development, apprenticeships, marketing and Web presence management with SkillsUSA, the I-CAR Education Foundation, Mentors at Work, VeriFacts Automotive and the NABC. He is the CEO of Optima Automotive (www.optimaautomotive.com), which provides website design, SEO services and social media management services.

During my days at VeriFacts Automotive, I sat in on one of their program launches. VeriFacts’ COO Mark Olson stood before a group of technicians, many of whom had 20-plus years of experience, and shared the following with them.

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On a flip chart, Olson drew a big circle, then made it into a pie chart with three pieces. The smallest slice represented what you know. A bigger slice represented what you don’t know. And the biggest slice represented what you don’t know that you don’t know. This big piece is like a void out there that we don’t know anything about, not even enough to ask about.

The purpose of this month’s article is to share with you some things that you likely don’t know. You might, but few I talk with do.

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Copyright
Who owns the copyright to your website? You paid for it, so it should be you, right? Not always.
There are developers who will build a website for you and make it easy for you with pre-written content. All they have to do is drop in your shop name, address and phone number into these cookie-cutter sites and you’re up and online inexpensively. The problem is that they usually retain the rights to this content, sometimes even the rights to photos you send them. Then, when you decide to go a different direction someday, you have to start from scratch. If you try to take your content with you, you’ll get a nasty legal letter from your former website provider.

Shop owner Ben Steinman learned the hard way about who really owns a website.Just ask Ben Steinman, owner of Ben’s Auto Body in Mexico, Mo. He wanted to switch to a new web developer because his old website wasn’t performing up to his expectations. However, the current developer and website hosting company sent him a cease-and-desist letter because they owned the copyright to his website. They forced him to write entirely new content for his new site. Worse yet, Ben had to pay them 10 times the normal registration fee for the rights to his domain because they owned that, too!
You may also recall from previous columns that duplicated content is frowned upon by search engines, potentially hurting a site’s long-term search rankings. Google and others simply disregard most duplicate content sites and don’t recognize them. This is how many of these cookie-cutter website providers operate – duplicating content over and over again.

Domain Name Rights
Who owns the rights to your domain name? Your www.mybodyshop.com URL? Many cookie-cutter web developers will also be happy to find and register a domain for you, but then they retain ownership of the rights to it, not you. Should you decide you want to use someone else, your old developer might just say “See ya!” and not give you the rights to your domain. Or, they might try to charge you way too much to buy it from them.

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Most domain names cost $10 to 12 per year, yet some of these outfits will gouge you for much more than this to buy the rights to your domain. There are reputable developers out there who save you the trouble of buying your own domain by happily transferring the registration to you. Know your developer, and find one you can trust.

To see who owns your domain, use this free link: http://who.godaddy.com/.

Duplicate Content
Has someone copied your site? Did your developer copy from somewhere else? Do you remember what I said before about search engines frowning upon duplicate content? A free service called
Copyscape can easily help you find out if your site is copied: www.copyscape.com. Just copy and paste your website address (URL) into the box provided and Copyscape will check for duplicate content.
One of the most common areas where duplicate content is found on body shop websites is on the FAQ pages. I’ve seen more of this content copied than anything else over the years.

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For example, we took a body shop website URL that was developed by one of the cookie-cutter website companies and pasted it into Copyscape. We found dozens of other sites that share at least 30 percent of the same content, with some sharing more than 50 percent! We believe anything more than 25 percent is too much.

These shop owners/managers don’t know what they don’t know: that duplicate content can potentially hurt their search rankings and cost them opportunities to reach out to potential customers.

Spend a few minutes considering these items. Check and see if your website has a copyright included and that it’s yours – not your developer’s. It should be dated 2012 and updated each year. Use the GoDaddy tool to determine who owns the rights to your domain. And use the Copyscape tool to see if there’s any duplicate content out there. Do these things and you can make the “things you know” slice on your pie chart a bit bigger.

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BSB Contributing Editor Mark Claypool has nearly 30 years of experience in the fields of workforce development, business/education partnerships, apprenticeships and web presence management. He is the CEO of Optima Automotive, which provides website design, development, search engine optimization (SEO) services and Social Media Management services. He’s also the director of business development for Metro Paint Supplies in Chicago. His work history includes VP of VeriFacts Automotive, founder of Mentors At Work (now a division of VeriFacts), executive director of the I-CAR Education Foundation and the National Auto Body Council (NABC), co-founder of the Collision Industry Foundation and national director of development for SkillsUSA. He served, on a volunteer basis, as the SkillsUSA World Team Leader for the WorldSkills Championships.  

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